Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reading in April

Yes, I'm aware that this is a tad late. As is probably fairly obvious, I've been quite busy lately, but, on the upside, my summer's shaping up to be filled with nothing but hot air and writing, redundant as the combo might prove to be. Future articles might - might - be a shade more on the timely side. In the meantime, let's bust out a time machine and figure out what I was reading two months ago.

Tau Zero boasts shallow characters, lax pacing, and a hard Science Fiction core so incredible that I'm still shaken a week after reading it. For the first time, I understand Hard Science Fiction. As it happens, there really are ideas strong enough to carry novels entirely on their own.

There's no denying that Aickman is a masterful writer. His prose is elegant, his atmospheres pervasive, his ideas fascinating. And yet I'm not sure that we're always on the same wavelength, to speak (as Robert Aickman certainly would not) in clich├ęs. The Model felt like one of the lesser stories in Cold Hand in Mine. Masterfully done and subtle, certainly, but composed of a subtlety too urbane to bother with meaning or gratification.

Classics are always an odd experience. The light jokes of the time are, when looked at from six decades' distance and through a classic's deific airs, bizarre. The Martian Chronicles feels dated in parts, and some of the stories felt too reliant on unbelievable actions to me. That being said, there's no denying the brilliance of several of Bradbury's pieces here, including There Will Come Soft Rains, Usher II, and The Million-Year Picnic. This was my first Bradbury, but I'll be reading more for sure.

Crass, rude, and absurd, Exponential Apocalypse is a hilarious read. Review here.

Daniel Kraus's YA horror novel is equal parts grave robbing and coming of age, and both are pulled off with skill and wit. There are a few discolorations here and there, but they do little to damage the whole. Review here.

Death Poems is one of Ligotti's rarest works and getting it probably serves as a good road sign of the purchaser's loss of sanity. So, is Death Poems worth the exorbitant price (while I won't quote what I paid, I will say that most editions go for over a dollar a page)? In an objective sense, no, it's probably not. Death Poems is interesting and often highly amusing, but it is not Teatro Grottesco. This is the kind of work that's enjoyable, perhaps even thought provoking, but is certainly not life changing. And, for that price, life changing would be a fair expectation. Then again, if you're at the point where you're even considering such an insane purchase, I can almost guarantee that you'll find yourself sliding into it, wise decision or not. Ligotti becomes a bit of an obsession like that.

Like most Ligotti, I read Death Poems twice.

Kafka on the Shore has talking cats, jobs in the library, murderous corporate icons, teen runaways, and gateways to isolated dimensions, and it’s all painted in Murakami’s beautiful but understated prose. This book feels like the fulfillment of much of the man’s style, complete with the bizarre ordinary world of After Dark and the questions of identity and humanity filling Hard Boiled Wonderland. If I can ever wrap my mind around this properly, there will be a review. In the meantime: highly, highly recommended.

Black Halo improved on many of Tome of the Undergates’ flaws and proves a damn entertaining read. Review here.

Valente writes with imagery so thick it would be suffocating if it weren’t so deftly handled. Almost every paragraph here is filled with wonders, but Deathless is not just great prose. Valente manages to create a gripping plot of bizarre creatures and circumstances out of folklore and dreams. This is the rare book than can – and should – be called magical in every sense of that word.

Simply written but awesomely imaginative, Scott Westerfeld's YA steampunk novel is an engrossing read. The ending is rather abrupt, but Westerfeld twists world war one into a shape both amusing and fascinating. Recommended.

The Picture of Dorian Gray’s an interesting horror-style concept wrapped around a book of witty dialogue and fascinating ideas. There’s the occasional moment that drags – such as the seemingly endless chapter describing the minutia of our dubious protagonist’s life – but Wilde proves equally adept at making the reader laugh and think.

I won't be reviewing Historical Lovecraft due to the whole being in it thing, but I will say that it's filled with excellent stories, including Tobler's If Only to Taste Her Again, Meikle's Inquisitor, Reiss's The Chronicle of Aliyat Son of Aliyat, Joshua Reynolds' the Far Deep, and Tanzer's The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins among others. You know you're interested...


  1. RE: Bradbury

    Make a note to read Something Wicked This Way Comes in October. Beautiful prose.

  2. I think I may have jumped the gun a bit, as I just read Something Wicked This Way Comes last week. The prose was, indeed, fantastic. Now I understand why Bradbury is so highly regarded.

  3. I doubt there's any wrong time to read Something Wicked This Way Comes, but reading it last fall lent it a bit more magic in my opinion. Wonderful book.

    I think I need to pick up and read Dandelion Wine this summer.